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25 of the Best Books on Architecture

Concept of an architecture book.

If you have ever observed the architecture around you closely, you must have noticed that it is almost always ‘speaking’ to us. As odd or surprising as it may sound, the streets, buildings, and structures that surround us are often telling us a story, or perhaps, tales from the past that let us know how they came into existence, and the numerous ways in which they have dramatically transformed with the advent of the modern era.

If you were to describe those very tales and stories, you would probably need something bigger and better than just words, perhaps some photographs, images, sketches, and even metaphors.

That is one of the main reasons why we have books on architecture that perfectly combine those unsaid words with the perfect photographs that give us an insight into how the very essence of architecture has undergone such massive transformations since ancient times.

These are some of the most amazing and incredible books on architecture that are ought to help any enthusiast or student in the respective field.

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Table of Contents Show

Thinking Architecture by Peter Zumthor

Thinking Architecture, 3rd Edition

This book is a winner of the Pritzker Prize for Architecture in 2009 and is considered to be one of the most influential and extraordinary books on architecture. Written by the Swiss architect Peter Zumthor, Thinking Architecture is a book that tells us how designing a building goes way beyond construction and form. It focuses on the relationship between architecture and the connection it has with life. Peter talks about how different buildings and forms of infrastructure almost speak to us and our emotion, and how they have their own aura. The book is also said to be a beautiful tale of personal experiences, a cultural appreciation of everyday details, as well as a corporeal impression of diverse materials.

Design Drawing by Francis D.K. Ching

Design Drawing

Through his book Design Drawing, Francis D.K. Ching takes the readers through an exhilarating journey of the whole process of creation. He has tried to offer a comprehensive introduction to the traditional basics of drawing, tone, space, line and shape. The book particularly uses an amalgamation of fundamental principles of architecture and an individual’s inventive and imaginative vision. It is like an all-in-one package that caters to professional architects, students, teachers, designers, teachers, and illustrators. It also gives the readers a step-by-step guide through the entire drawing process, which further helps uncover different drawing techniques such as paraline and multiview.

Towards a New Architecture by Le Corbusier 

Towards a New Architecture

Le Corbusier is a Swiss-born artist who wrote the book Towards a New Architecture in hopes to promote the architectural virtues of the machine. He is famous for his declaration, “the house is a machine for living in” which was his way that functionalism in architecture holds far greater importance than appearance and first impressions. So, he wrote this book in order to determine the parallels between an engineer’s aesthetic sense and architecture. He proposed a different perspective on architecture through his book and wished for it to be an answer or solution to the big demands of the respective industry after the Industrial Revolution.

Architecture: Form, Space, and Order by Francis D. K. Ching

Architecture: Form, Space, and Order

This book has been quite a classic introduction to the basics of architectural design for even more than 30 years. This probably doesn’t come as a surprise given how Francis D.K. Ching is such a celebrated architect, illustrator and author. The book offers a fresh and modern perspective at conventional architectural models and designs. It is full of contemporary examples of various forms of order, space, and form. The author has also explained the relationship between different variables and basic elements of architecture that have transformed across cultural boundaries and also through different ages.

The Architecture of Happiness by Alain de Botton

The Architecture of Happiness

With the aim to explore the hidden links between our well-being and the buildings around us, the book The Architecture of Happiness looks at building from all around the world from a single lens and aims to answer questions like “what makes a house truly beautiful” and “can we be both happy and minimalistic at the same time”. Having written incredible pieces on travel, love and philosophy, Alaine de Botton has shifted his attention to the psychology and history of interior design and architecture through this remarkable book. He aims to completely change the way we look at buildings because architecture is a public form of art and it is very important to identify the different subtle qualities that make one form of architecture beautiful and the other, not so much.

The Eyes of the Skin by Juhani Pallasmaa

The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses

As the name suggests, The Eyes of the Skin is a book that poses a far-reaching question and also seeks solutions and answers to it. The question is something along the lines of why only the sense of sight has gained so much importance and individuality in architectural design and culture when we have a total of five key senses? Juhani Pallasmaa, the author of this enlightening book who is also hailed as one of Finland’s most distinguished architects, argues that when the other four sensory realms of your body are suppressed, there is a great decline and diminishment in the ability of the buildings and architecture around you to inspire and engage, and you a life-enhancing experience.

Why Architecture Matters by Paul Goldberger

Why Architecture Matters (Why X Matters Series)

Although this book does talk about the history of architecture and its transformation throughout history, its main focus is on the “why” part of architecture which revolves around reasons why it matters so much and holds such an important position in our lives, and also the ways in which it affects us emotionally, mentally as well as intellectually. The book aims to raise our awareness of the basic things like form, space, materials, light, shape, memory and texture which is a way of changing every aspect our entire perception of the built world in which we live. The author also shows us how various forms of architecture bring us such ranging emotions like perplexity, sadness and delight through fascinating examples like the Church of Saint and the Prairie houses of Frank Lloyd Wright.

Modern Architecture by Kenneth Frampton

Modern Architecture: A Critical History (Fourth Edition) (World of Art)

This book is deemed to be one of the prominent and important works that highlight modern architecture and has become quite a classic since the 1980s. It offers a modern take on several ways in which globalization has affected architecture in recent years. It also goes on to particularly talk about four countries including Spain, Finland, Japan and France and how progressive patronage and the creative talent in those countries have come together to create such a beautiful architectural culture.

Ten Books on Architecture by Vitruvius

Vitruvius Ten Books on Architecture: UK & DE sales discount to load

Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, the author of this book is also a Roman architect and a military engineer who wrote the ‘Ten Books on Architecture’ which went on to become quite a treatise on architecture and buildings. This book has been regarded as exceptionally valuable since the Renaissance era and also as the first-ever book on architectural theory, given how it is the only antique piece on architecture to have survived from those times. The book is considered to be extremely influential even in today’s times as it perfectly describes the fundamental principles of harmony, symmetry, aesthetics, and materials.

The New Old House: Historic & Modern Architecture by Marc Kristal

The New Old House: Historic & Modern Architecture Combined

By talking about how architecture and structural designs from the past have changed as they entered modern times, Marc Kristal aims to highlight the importance of innovative architectural restorations through his spectacular book ‘The New Old House’. He does that by analyzing 18 case studies of private historic homes from Europe to North America that have been completely renewed with a mere addition of a newly-built component. The book further talks about numerous other projects that are pure examples of a beautiful combination of history and modernity. This has allowed these buildings able to address factors such as style, beauty, elegance, and multiculturalism.

World Architecture: The Primaryworks by Will Pryce

World Architecture: The Primaryworks

Originally trained as an architect and an award-winning photographer, Will Pryce has done a beautiful job of celebrating a collection of some of the finest buildings from all over the world. These iconic buildings go back to over two thousand years of civilization, including Taj Mahal, Hagia Sophia, the Gothic Cathedrals of Europe, and so many others. The book features as many as eighty buildings in total, out of which more than half have been talked about through gorgeous detailed photo essays. The text and commentary in the book alongside the photographs of architectural primarypieces help the readers understand how they have evolved through history to modern times.

Art and Architecture in Mexico by James Oles

Art and Architecture in Mexico (World of Art)

As the name suggests, this book offers an interpretative history of Mexican art and is more like a survey of the complexity of that art which also ranges across numerous genres and offers fascinating perspectives on photographs, prints, paintings and sculptures. The book tells the story of Mexican art with its rich historical context and also addresses the social and political changes associated with Mexican art. The author James Oles has done that by interpreting the works of famous and influential artists like Frieda Kahlo and Diego Rivera.

Kicked a Building Lately? by Ada Louise Huxtable

Kicked A Building Lately?

With quite a mind-boggling question as the title of her book, Ada Louise Huxtable takes on quite a critique-based approach to architecture and talks about the various problems and pleasures of urban planning and architecture. This book is a true example of contemporary criticism at its finest. The underlying theme of the book mainly focuses on the need to create the kind perfect kind of urban environment that is an ideal combination of affordable, aesthetically pleasing and also livable.

Architecture of First Societies: A Global Perspective by Mark M. Jarzombek

Architecture of First Societies: A Global Perspective

If you are looking for the most comprehensive kind of book on architecture that makes use of socio-cultural evolution of what is typically referred to as First Societies, you must get your hands on the book called “Architecture of First Societies: A Global Perspective” written by Mark M. Jarzombek. One of its key and overriding themes is ‘material culture’ through which the author talks about the different cultural formations spanned across numerous periods of time starting from the dawn of early human civilizations to the American tribes of the pre-Columbian era. The book looks at architecture, material culture and the built world through a lens of both geography and time and tells us how the architectural history has come to life with the help of various drawings, photographs and maps.

A Visual Dictionary of Architecture by Francis D K Ching

A Visual Dictionary of Architecture

Whether you are an architecture student or a professional architect, the book “A Visual Dictionary of Architecture” by Francis D.K Ching is an absolute must-read for you. It consists of more than 5000 terms that are related to architectural history, design and technology. The book is referred to as a one-top or one-volume reference of all kinds of topics that relate to buildings and structural designs. Although it is a dictionary, it also includes drawings and text through which all the dynamics of architecture have been explored comprehensively.

Architecture: Residential Drafting and Design by Clois E. Kicklighter Ed. D., W. Scott Thomas

Architecture: Residential Drafting and Design

This book is particularly meant for the architect in you since it provides such a detailed, clear and comprehensive layout on the traditional as well as computer-based methods of design and construction. It also talks about the different ways of preparing architectural working drawings by covering the basic principles and techniques. One of the underlying themes of “Architecture: Residential Drafting and Design” is the design-building process which the book features to provide every architecture student a logical way to create effective structural designs.

Architecture: From Prehistory to Post Modernity by Marvin Trachtenberg, Isabelle Hyman

Architecture: From PreHistory to Post-Modernism

Architecture has long existed since ancient times and that is exactly what Isabelle Hyman has talked about in her book called “Architecture: From Prehistory to Post Modernity”. It is more like a chronological survey that moves back and forth between the various historical trends that have taken place since old times and how they have to change so dramatically and drastically in modern times. The book also features details of major works in the architectural history where it highlights crucial themes of structure and design, and explains particular qualities of the different prehistoric times and post-modern periods. Many critics and readers refer to this book as a lavishly-illustrated survey of the varying timeline since it also talks about the illuminating differences between the time periods in terms of their social, aesthetic and intellectual form.

Craftsman Homes (Dover Architecture) by Gustave Stickley

More Craftsman Homes (Dover Architecture)

Gustave Stickley was the leader of the American Arts and Crafts Movement and was greatly influenced and impressed by the English arts and crafts movement. He opposed the ideas of outmoded architectural traditions that were strongly prominent during the Victorian era and instead proposed
American-inspired styles that gained much popularity during the twentieth century. This book also followed a similar pattern and talked about replacing superfluous ornamentation with those architectural spaces that offer a harmonious blend of aesthetics, utility and economy. As the name suggests, the Craftsman Homes particularly highlighted the need for an honest and beautiful building that makes efficient and effective use of materials and spaces.

Archi-Graphic: An Infographic Look at Architecture by Frank Jacobus

Archi-Graphic: An Infographic Look at Architecture

The main highlighting feature of this book is the variety of info graphics included within its pages that looks at ordinary architecture through an unusual lens, something that wouldn’t exactly be possible with just images or words. The stunning info-graphics in the book offer a very interesting and creative comparison between the different colors and materials used by numerous architects mentioned in the book. Other than that, the book also features unconventional angles of looking at architecture that would help the readers understand things like entangling love affairs of numerous famous architects, their defining facial features and the kinds of architectural styles that were most favored and liked by many dictators.

The Architecture Student’s Handbook of Professional Practice by AIA

The Architecture Student's Handbook of Professional Practice

For all enthusiastic and devoted architecture students, ‘The Architecture Student’s Handbook of Professional Practice’ is a must-read since it consists of such vast knowledge that will help every student or even professional in effectively managing all sorts of architectural projects. It is a book written by the American Institute of Architects (AIA). The main purpose of this wonderful book is to bring together the fundamentals architectural practice and help readers understand the legal and ethical responsibilities of becoming an architect, the process of building and running your own architects firm and how to manage and develop projects.

Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture by Robert Venturi

Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture

This is quite a remarkable book that was first published in 1966 and since then it has become quite an essential document for architectural literature. It has been described by many readers and critics as ‘the most compelling postmodern rebellion against the purism of modernism’. The fact that it has so far been converted into 16 different languages simply goes to show how amazingly useful and fascinating it is. As the intriguing name of the book suggests, it talks about the different kinds of complexities found in modern architecture and how no two architectural ideas will ever be the same and are likely to end up contradicting each other.

The Architecture Reference & Specification Book by Julia McMorrough

The Architecture Reference & Specification Book: Everything Architects Need to Know Every Day

Like numerous other standard references based on architecture and structural designs, ‘The Architecture Reference and Specification Book by Julia McMorrough serves the same purpose of providing overwhelming details to the modern-day architect about how architectural forms and styles have come such a long way. This book has all the essential information and details on how to successfully plan and execute incredible architectural projects. It also goes on to give a standard format that would work everywhere, regardless of how big or small the architectural project is.

The Elements of Style: An Encyclopedia of Domestic Architectural Detail by Stephen CallowayAlan Powers and Elizabeth Cromley

The Elements of Style: An Encyclopedia of Domestic Architectural Detail

With more than 3000 analytic drawings, 400 colored photographs, and 1000 black-white photographs, this book has to be the most comprehensive and detailed work on the 500 years of agricultural designs, styles, and forms. It is one of those exceptional architecture books that consist of a period-by-period and feature-by-feature visual survey of the numerous architectural styles that greatly influenced the interiors of both British and American domestic architecture. The book offers a systematic guide in terms of the features that are a must for every building or structural piece. These features of elements include walls, ceilings, floors, and staircases, to name a few. Not just this but the book has further been enriched by a discussion of semi-permanent and permanent fixtures including wall coverings, lighting, flooring, kitchen stoves and various other such architectural details.

101 Things I Learned in Architecture School by Matthew Frederick

101 Things I Learned in Architecture School (The MIT Press)

This is the one book that almost every aspiring architecture student needs to keep in their backpacks. The author, Matthew Frederick, talks about the 101 things he learned in his architecture school which includes lessons in design, presentations, creative processes, etc. The book begins with the very basic things like how to draw a line and then moves on to the much complex aspects like color theory and the complexities that are found within it. The lessons in the book are backed by interesting examples that show the clear difference between a good architectural design and a bad design too, for instance. The book is considered to be a valuable and comprehensive guidepost for solving complex design problems, carefully navigating the design studio and also doing other architecture-related activities in the classroom curriculum.

Building Construction Illustrated by Frank Ching

Building Construction Illustrated, 5th Edition

This is a book written by a professional architect called Frank Ching and has a very unique take on architecture. It is like a classic visual guide to all the fundamentals of construction and building. It further incorporates a 3D digital building model which greatly serves the purpose of understanding the basics of architecture in a very engaging and interactive learning manner. The book also features an updated manual on light construction techniques, use of environmentally friendly materials, and the increased coverage of advanced and upgraded methods and techniques in the modern architectural projects.


If you are keen on reading about the various architectural styles, designs, and forms that have come and gone, you ought to pick a book and give it a read in order to satisfy the architect inside you!

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